Rob Portman

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Rob Portman speaks on March 17, 2005 at the White House ceremony at which President George W. Bush nominated him to be the next U.S. Trade Representative.

Robert Jones Portman (born December 19, 1955) is an American lawyer and the current United States Trade Representative, a post carrying the rank of Ambassador. From 1993 to 2005, he was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio, representing that state's second congressional district (map (, which stretches along the Ohio River from the Hamilton County suburbs of Cincinnati east to Scioto County. He was confirmed by the Senate as Trade Representative on April 29, 2005, and privately sworn into his new office that day. Later, a public, ceremonial swearing in was performed by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card on May 17, 2005 with President Bush in attendance to praise his friend.[1] (



Portman, a Methodist who is a millionaire thanks to his family's heavy-equipment business, was born in Cincinnati and graduated in 1974 from Cincinnati Country Day School. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1979 and a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1984. Upon his graduation, he worked for the Washington law firm of Patton, Boggs, and Blow from 1984 to 1986, when he returned to Cincinnati. In Cincinnati, he worked for Graydon, Head, and Ritchey until going to work for President George H. W. Bush as associate White House counsel in 1989. Portman later served as director of the Office of Legislative Affairs until 1991. He returned to Cincinnati to Graydon, Head, until his election to Congress.

Portman and his wife, Jane, are residents of Terrace Park in Hamilton County. They have three children: Jed, Will and Sally.

Enters Congress

Never having been a candidate for any elective office, Portman was elected to the House in his first race, which came in a special election in 1993 to complete the term of Willis D. Gradison Jr., who, three months after his re-election, resigned on January 31, 1993, to become a lobbyist for the insurance industry as president of the Health Insurance Association of America. In the Republican primary on March 16, Portman faced six-term Congressman Bob McEwen, who had lost his Sixth District seat to Ted Strickland in November 1992; real estate developer Jay Buchert, president of the National Association of Home Builders; and several lesser known candidates: real estate appraiser Garland Eugene Crawford of Loveland; pro-life activist Ken Callis of the Cincinnati suburb of Wyoming; Robert W. Dorsey, a professor at the University of Cincinnati and township trustee in Hamilton County's Anderson Township; and Ku Klux Klan leader Van Darrell Loman of Cheviot. (Three other candidates filed and qualified but withdrew from the primary, former Madeira mayor Mary Anne Christie; Lebanon attorney Bruce Gudenkauf, a member of the Warren County Republican Party's central committee; and Donnie Jones, city auditor in Norwood.)

In February the press reported that, according to campaign finance filings, McEwen trailed both Buchert and Portman in funds, Buchert having three times the treasury McEwen did. McEwen was endorsed by Oliver North, whose convictions from the Iran contra scandal McEwen had protested when he was in Congress. McEwen also crticized Portman for lobbying Congress to pass the tax increase President George H. W. Bush supported when Portman was a White House aide. He also critized Portman for being a lobbyist for Oman. McEwen brought his former House colleage Jack Kemp to Ohio to campaign for him.

Portman was criticized in the campaign for his law firm's work for Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier, while McEwen faced questions about the bounced checks he had written on the House bank. Buchert ran campaign commercials citing McEwen's checks, the expenses of his Congressional office, and his campaign finance disclosures, while noting Portman was "the handpicked choice of the downtown money crowd" and was "a registered foreign agent for the biggest Democrat lobbying firm in Washington," labeling Portman and McEwen "Prince Rob and Bouncing Bob". Questions were also raised about whether McEwen had been illegally using his House office in his re-election campaign in 1992 when McEwen's successor, Ted Strickland, found campaign material on his office computers.

In the primary, McEwen won four of the five counties in the district, Adams, Brown, Clermont, and Warren, all of these counties save Brown having been at least in part in his old district. (In Adams, he received 77% of the vote, sixty-seven points ahead of the second-place finisher.) However, McEwen finished third in the largest county in the district, Hamilton, one he had never represented and which contained 57% of the Second District's registered voters. Portman won only Hamilton County, taking 17,531 votes (35.61%) overall, while McEwen received 14,542 (29.54%), Buchert 12,488 (25.37%), Dorsey 2,947 (5.99%), the rest scattering.

The race in the Second District, one of the most Republican in the country, was determined in the primary and Portman won all five counties in the general election. Portman spent $650,000 in his primary campaign but only $81,000 in the general election held May 4, 1993, in which he easily defeated attorney Lee Hornberger, Gradison's opponent in 1992, by 53,020 (70.1%) to 22,652 (29.1%). Portman was sworn in as a member of the 103rd Congress on May 5, 1993, less than eighteen hours after the polls closed.

Portman was easily re-elected in every election. In 1994, he defeated Democrat Les Mann, a security guard at the General Electric Company's factory in Evendale, 150,128 to 43,730 to return to the 104th Congress. In 1996, he defeated Democrat Thomas R. Chandler, a hospital technician who had lost the Democratic primary to Hornberger in 1993, and independent Kathleen M. McKnight. Portman won with 186,853 votes to Chandler's 58,715, and McKnight's 13,905 for a seat in the 105th Congress.

In 1998, his Democratic challenger was Waynesville mayor Charles W. Sanders, but Portman was re-elected to the 106th Congress by a vote of 154,344 to 49,293. Portman faced Sanders again in the succeeding three elections, Sanders never getting as much as one-third of the vote. In 2000, Portman won election to the 107th Congress by 204,184 to 64,091, with Libertarian Robert E. Bidwell getting 9,266 votes. In 2002, Sanders was again nominated by the Democrats even though, because of redistricting, he no longer lived in the Second District, but Portman won a term in the 108th Congress 139,218 to 48,785, and in 2004, Portman defeated Sanders 221,785 to 87,156. He served in the 109th Congress until April 29, 2005.

Respected House member

Portman was a member of the Budget and Ways and Means Committees. Portman is very close to President George W. Bush, and acted as the liaison between Congressional Republicans and the White House during the first four years of the Bush administration. In nominating him for the trade post, President Bush called Portman "a good friend, a decent man, and a skilled negotiator."

Well respected on both sides of the aisle, Portman worked on reforming the Internal Revenue Service (the IRS Restructuring Act of 1998), Cincinnati's National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, unfunded mandates (the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995), and pensions offered by small businesses. Portman's hometown paper would describe him as having "two personas: the well-connected Congressman who would surface on cable news channels as a 'talking head' for the Bush led agenda and another as the politician who drove himself from one small town pancake breakfast or Kiwanis luncheon to another in a district stretching 100 miles plus."

Leaves House to become USTR

On March 17, 2005, President George W. Bush nominated ( Portman to be United States Trade Representative. Portman was confirmed by the Senate on April 29. He resigned his Congressional seat at noon that day and the House took notice of his resignation on May 2, 2005 [2] ( [3] (

Published author

In December 2004, Portman and Cheryl Bauer published a book on the Nineteenth Century Shaker community at Union Village in Turtlecreek Township, Warren County, Ohio, entitled Wisdom's Paradise: The Forgotten Shakers of Union Village. (Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press, 2004. ISBN 1882203402). Portman was interested in the topic because his maternal grandparents, Robert and Virginia Jones, in the 1930's had purchased the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, about four miles east of the former Shaker settlement, and decorated it with Shaker furniture and artifacts.

See also

External links


This article incorporates facts obtained from the public domain Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Preceded by:
Bill Gradison
U.S. Representative from Ohio's 2nd Congressional District
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Peter Allgeier
United States Trade Representative
Succeeded by:

Template:End box Template:OH-FedRep


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